Proponents of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)see it as a path to a modern economy that will see Pennsylvanians benefit from both a health and economic standpoint.
Opponents to RGGI see it as something else – a plan that will raise taxes on residents and devastate the state’s economy.
Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court heard arguments on both sides Wednesday on an issue that will determine entry into the multi-state initiative.
“We are pleased to see the court seriously addressing Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment and pushing the Department of Environmental Protection on its obligations as a trustee of our public natural resources,” said attorney Jessica O’Neill, who argued the case for PennFuture, a Harrisburg-based environmental advocacy nonprofit.
“Several justices questioned the Commonwealth Court’s injunction, which stopped the RGGI regulation from going into effect, and we are confident that the Supreme Court will agree with the nonprofits and the DEP that the injunction was wrongly issued.”
Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court enjoined the state’s entry into RGGI while legal merits were being argued in court. Wednesday’s arguments were part of an appeal of that ruling that could result in Pennsylvania’s entry while the case proceeds.
PennFuture President and CEO Patrick McDonnell called RGGI an initiative where every Pennsylvania citizen wins on health and economic outcomes.
“RGGI is a cap-and-invest system that will add $4 billion in economic value across our region and create 30,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania,” said McDonnell. “The market has spoken, and fossil fuel plants continue to close, giving no employment alternative for the communities that host them.
“Not only will RGGI reduce carbon pollution in Pennsylvania by up to 227 million tons by 2030, but the energy industry can easily make that transition with proven and affordable renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage technologies.”
McDonnell said the 11 current RGGI states have proven that the benefits of moving forward equal lower costs, more jobs, better health, and a sustainable future.
“It’s time to start delivering on the promise of a clean energy future for Pennsylvanians,” he stated.
Pennsylvania House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster called on the state Supreme Court to follow the law and continue the delay placed on entry into the initiative by the Commonwealth Court while legal merits are presented.
Cutler said in a statement Wednesday that as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court hears arguments that will decide whether the state’s entrance into RGGI can continue concurrent while legal questions are still being determined, he encouraged the court to follow the law and continue to pause entry.
Cutler added that legal questions include whether a governor can “unilaterally place a tax on Pennsylvanians.” He said Pennsylvania’s entry into the 11-state compact “will do nothing but raise energy prices on Pennsylvania’s families and crush family-sustaining energy sector jobs.”
O’Neill remarked in an interview on the eve of the hearing that a decision by the Supreme Court wasn’t expected soon.
“The Supreme Court will write an opinion and it could take them some time, so we don’t really have a timeline,” she said, adding that there is a timeliness about entry into RGGI.
“But for this injunction, we would have begun participating in RGGI last September,” she said. “Every quarter that we’re not in it, the state is losing out on potential proceeds.
“There is a real sense of urgency to being able to not just start capping this pollution, but to actually receive these benefits and start this program of working toward energy transition.”